RESOURCES

Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Comic Book Creator

MATTHEW CHILDERS

ARTIST, ILLUSTRATOR & WRITER

September 2018

You probably have Imposter Syndrome.

Do you feel like you are faking it in the comic book industry?

Are you worried you’ll be called out by your fellow comic creators for doing something wrong.

Are you afraid of asking questions about making comics because you don’t want to reveal that dirty secret… that you may not know what you’re talking about.

Or maybe you feel that you shouldn’t share your work or talk about your process until you are an expert yourself, because only experts do that?

Chances are you answered yes to one of these questions. I know full well that I could probably answer yes to one or more of these on a daily basis.

That’s right. I struggle with this EVERY DAY. If you are reading this chances are you do to.

So first off I want you to realize something extremely important.

You are not alone.

Imposter syndrome strikes every single person, every day. Not just people like you and I who make comics.

It’s that thing, that deep rooted fear that we just aren’t good enough. That we don’t know enough about what we are doing to deserve praise or be looked up to.

Some people call it humility, and humility is great. But it also can be paralyzing.

Paralyzing and damaging not only to our careers but to our process, our flow, our creativity.

I spent years battling with this. I wasted years battling with this. I sketched and drew and never shared, or rarely shared. I flinched away from actually doing the hard thing… the actual storytelling and making comics thing because I was afraid I just wasn’t good enough yet.

Putting aside that the only way to great good at making comics is to, yep… you guessed it… make comics.

Putting aside that by not buckling down and doing the work I was robbing myself out of a catalogue of my own work that I could have been proud of.

Putting all that aside, by giving into Imposter Syndrome I was doing a disservice to everyone else.

It’s okay to feel like you are faking it.

This is a natural feeling. It’s natural to feel like you don’t know everything because guess what. You don’t. You won’t.

Comics, as with any art form, as with anything are a work in progress.

We as creators are always learning and growing. I constantly watch new videos and try to figure out new techniques. That’s natural. That’s great.

It’s okay to tell yourself to fake it until you make it. Because how we present ourselves, even if it’s with a sense of false confidence can help others. Because if you are creating, if you are making comics. Even if you feel like you’re faking it. You’re really not. You’re doing it.

So while you tell yourself you’re an imposter, if you are actually doing the work… I’ve got news for you. To everyone else. To the people who read your books. To the people who enjoy your words or marvel at your art.

You’re the real thing.

Are you afraid other creators will call you out?

You have heroes. We all do. Your biggest fear could honestly be that you are afraid they will see your work or see something you’ve said and they’ll call you out. Reveal to the world that you’re an imposter.

Well let’s take a bite of humble pie here. A nice slice of reality.

Your heroes probably aren’t paying one bit of attention to you.

Okay let that set in because it’s hard for some people to hear.

Those so-called experts. If you aren’t at their level… they probably are too busy to bother with you. It’s nothing against you. It’s nothing against what you are creating. You just haven’t made it into their circle yet.

And in comics… we are all so busy sometimes we barely see outside our own window.

The only people that matter are the people that read your stuff now. The creators and fans who support you. They are your audience. They are the ones who will help you level up. Talk to them. Create for them.

But let’s say on the off chance that you did have a creator you admired suddenly critique something you did, or pointing out a flaw in your process.

Well to start, your process is your process. What works for them might not work for you.

Secondly we are always growing. This may be a chance to learn. Remember this is a journey. Not a destination. If they are giving out advice you can benefit from it.

And lastly if they are paying attention to you, it’s because you are getting your work out there. They are taking notice. It’s because you are leveling up. So don’t take criticism of your work or process as a negative. Your journey can always grow from advice so enjoy it. Relish in it.

Don’t afraid to ask questions or look stupid.

We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve taken on a task that we just don’t feel comfortable at. Maybe we just don’t know how to do something or just haven’t had enough experience at it.

That’s okay. It’s okay to ask questions of our peers. To watch youtube videos to see how other people do things. To question.

Asking questions is how we learn. If we don’t, if we cower in fear then we won’t grow. We won’t get better.

Our biggest reluctance to asking questions is that we don’t want to look foolish or stupid. But in asking the question sometimes we reveal that we aren’t alone.

We shine the light upon a problem that many times other creators are lurking around in the shadows hoping to find the answer for.

So shine the light on that problem. Discover the answer. And the next thing you know you will be the expert on how to solve it.

If you are asking a question, no matter how silly and another creator answers it, everyone gets value from that.

You feel uncomfortable about sharing your work or talk about your process until you are an expert yourself.

This is where most people get it wrong. We as a culture have this inner belief that only experts should be allowed to teach or talk about how things should be done. But the reality is that it’s the exact opposite.

If you want to be seen as an expert, to grow as a creator. You must not only share what you know but you must teach what you know. To be transparent with your journey. Mistakes and all.

When you open yourself up to showing your work. To sharing your journey, the people who want to share in it will be naturally attracted to your story.

The people that aren’t, well they aren’t your audience anyway. So it doesn’t matter.

If I have any big piece of advice to anyone making comics, or anything. It’s to share their journey. Don’t just post your portfolio or your book that you’ve created. Share the journey of making it from start to finish.

Talk about the problems you’ve face. The struggles you’ve encountered. Your successes and your losses.

The great thing about doing this is that not only will you attract a rabid fanbase, and people who are interested in your story but you also grow as a creator. You’ve documented your mistakes. And it’s easier to prevent them in the future.

When you give into Imposter Syndrome you rob people of enjoying what you create.

I don’t care if it’s your first comic book, zine, or even if you do a four page story for the first time. If you do not create, if you do not share, if you do not put your work out there then those people who want your thing, who need your thing. They’ll never see it.

When you give into Imposter Syndrome and you don’t create you are effectively robbing the world of the experience of enjoying it.

If you are truly out to create something for others and you don’t. You are doing them a disservice.

They want what you have created. They need what you have created.

Your story will bring joy to them. It will inspire them. It doesn’t matter what level of creator you are, whether it be beginner or seasoned professional – everything you create is for them. Don’t rob them of that experience.

“But I can’t make it as good as…”

No.

It doesn’t matter what level you are at.

Make the thing. Create the comic. Draw the story. Ink the story. Do whatever it is you do. Don’t get caught up in your anxiety. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s not. Ever.

You will never be 100%. If you try for 100% you’ll be chasing the dragon forever.

That’s not to say you can’t put forth your best effort but the idea is to make something. The idea is not to try to create a perfection that doesn’t exist.

Who cares if another artist could draw it better. Or another writer has a better grasp of dialogue. You are the only one that do it the way you do. Your vision is unique. And your audience will build around you.

There is always someone behind you on the path.

Something that hit me like a ton of bricks was realizing that it didn’t matter where on the journey I was.

There was always someone who was behind me on the path.

Someone whom I could help on the journey.

Whether it be through teaching my techniques, or sharing my knowledge someone out there is going to be better equipped for the journey because of that.

Your journey, filled with imperfection, inspires others.

One of the wonders of living in the age of social media is that not only can we find and engage with people who like and share things we enjoy. Not only does it give us the ability to create communities around the things we enjoy, but it also gives us the ability to share our journey.

As creators of content, of comics and art we all start out on a similar path. We begin. We take a road that has many challenges. Many ups and downs.

What social media allows us to do is to create a story around that journey. If we give into Imposter Syndrome and we don’t begin that journey or tell that story… then you don’t create a story people can benefit from.

You as a creator aren’t just putting out into the world your successes but your failures too. And that’s okay. That’s good. When you share your mistakes other people benefit from that.

Being of the mindset that you have to be perfect to inspire others is a fallacy. And it’s ultimately not helping anyone.

Be honest about where you are in your journey.

I think one of the key things to understand when dealing with Imposter Syndrome is to be honest about where you are in your journey.

If you are just starting out then you probably will be full of questions. It’s okay to ask them.

If you have the desire but your confidence is low then start small.

Do a one page comic. 

Do a two page comic.

Do a four page.

Build up to a full comic.

You don’t have to start out from the gate running the same pace as the thoroughbreds.

It’s like running. You don’t start out doing a marathon. You run a little bit every day. Every day a little more. You will adjust. You will get better.

Don’t give into the mindset of I will do this thing when I’m better at it. Because you honestly won’t get better at it until you do the thing. Start now. Start small. But just start.

If you’re slightly ahead of the curve don’t forget to document. To teach.

You can grow your audience more by sharing your journey than you can standing on the social media street corner shouting about your latest creation. People want your story, not your product.

And lastly if you are a seasoned pro, chances are you still deal with many of the issues. You’ve probably created a process and gained enough confidence to turn the volume down on Imposter Syndrome but much can be gained by simply sharing your own fears and struggles. Again teach what you know and you’ll only see your status elevated.

You are not an imposter.

The moment you create your story, whether it be a one page comic, or a full graphic novel. Whether it be a one panel laugh or an epic fantasy tale. The moment you create that thing and share it with the world.

The moment you do that… you are not an imposter… you are a creator of a thing.

You are a creator.

First, I did a quick thumbnail to make sure I liked the overall idea. Sometimes I do more than one but this one was right on the nose with what I wanted. 

In photoshop, using the thumbnail as a base I defined forms and drew out the main art. The masthead and typography I build in Adobe Illustrator and imported into photoshop. When I'm done with this stage I print out only the masthead in light blue  (10% cyan only) onto Strathmore 300 Smooth Bristol Board.

My printer prints at 11x17 and that paper works really well with my printer. The line art I print separately in black and draw in with a light box. The reason for all of that is so that I can keep the artwork as clean as possible.

After that, it's just me, a brush, a couple micron pens and time.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How long does it take to draw a commision for a client? 
Typically I draw and turn a commission around in a week. I don't like pieces to linger for more than that. With shipping typically two weeks.

 

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